Some folks who visit Columbus want to come back. Others just can’t stay away.
The latter’s the case with Michael Walli, 61, an SOA Watch protester arrested last November for crossing onto the Fort Benning post during the group’s annual demonstration against the institute formerly known as the School of the Americas. During his initial court appearance, the Washington, D.C., man told federal Magistrate G. Mallon Faircloth that if released under the condition he contact a probation officer and return for a January trial, he would never come back.
In reference to U.S. Marshals, Faircloth told Walli then: “If you choose not to come back, find a good hiding place from the marshals, because they will be looking for you…. And if you’re in this country, they’ll find you. And if you’re not in this country, they’ll find you.”
They found him March 6 in this country’s capital, Washington, D.C. On Thursday, Walli again was standing before Faircloth. This time the protester wore an inmate’s uniform with horizontal bands of gray and “Irwin County Detention Center” in red letters on the back.
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Officers escorting Walli from the courtroom after a 5-minute hearing said he was being kept in the detention center in Ocilla, Ga.
He was picked up on a bench warrant for failing to appear, and still faces the initial charge of trespassing onto government property a second time after being warned never to do so again.
Faircloth remanded him to the marshal’s custody until further proceedings ensue.
Walli, who before the hearing could be overheard talking to court personnel about St. Francis of Assisi, and afterward, in refusing to sign court paperwork, referred to the digits 666 being the “mark of the beast,” refused to address Faircloth directly. When Faircloth asked Walli a question, Walli turned to an attorney and said, “You advised me that I have the right to remain silent.” The judge agreed that Walli had that right.
During his first hearing in November, Walli had told Faircloth he wanted to remain in the Harris County Jail to call attention to the Fort Benning institute he was protesting. Faircloth refused to leave him there, and ordered him to return to Columbus for a Jan. 25 trial.
Walli again told the judge he wouldn’t return: “I walk out and it’s goodbye.”
“I doubt that,” Faircloth countered, “but you may believe that if you like.”
The exact circumstances of Walli’s March arrest were unclear Thursday. Though the marshals said he was picked up March 6, SOA Watch on its website said Walli was “taken into custody during his April 6th trial in Washington, D.C.”
SOA Watch says Walli has a history of such arrests:
“Inspired by the philosophies of Dorothy Day and Mahatma Gandhi, among many others, Michael has been arrested for nonviolent civil disobedience approximately 40 times, addressing a variety of interconnected issues. These actions include crossing onto Fort Benning in protest of the School of the Americas … four different times, and participating in one Plowshares action in 2006 for which Michael served eight months in prison.”